In this week’s Backpage, FIFA fan and footy journalist Darren Cross talks tactics and reveals how his attacking 4-1-5 formation got him to H2H Seasons Division 1...
I’m a huge geek for tactics and formations.
I love watching real games of football then looking at how one team tactically outclassed the other, or why one formation proved superior to another.
Lately I’ve been thinking about things like this in relation to FIFA 12.
There are tons of really good default formations in the game and I’ve always used the 4-1-2-1-2 as it’s the one I felt most covered with in both defence and attack, but I was sure I could give myself an edge if I could come up with an improved version to use online so I could make a push for that final promotion to Division 1 in H2H Seasons.
So I started tinkering and, after a bit of trial and error, the results were great.
I achieved promotion to Division 1 in my first season and I have to say, hoping that this doesn’t sound like bragging, I did it fairly comfortably. My biggest win was 5-1 and I picked up five more good victories and a draw from my next seven games to take me up. Playing as Ecuador, Felipe Caicedo – who I highlighted as a secret weapon in last week’s Backpage – played a big part in the wins again, but the main reason for my stress-free path to Division 1 was definitely my new formation and tactic.
So this week’s Backpage is all about what I changed and why. I’m hoping it’ll inspire you to take the time to build your own system and push up through the divisions.
Before you choose a base formation to start adjusting, you need to ask yourself what your strengths and weaknesses are. For instance, are you better at defending than attacking? Do you use wingers or are you more comfortable with packing out the middle of the pitch?
Are you better with a back three or do you prefer four or five defenders in your line up?
Once you know the answers to these questions, pick a base formation that supports your strengths and addresses your weaknesses. For example, I know that I favour a back four and that I’m pretty confident with defending in FIFA 12, but I need all the help I can get in attack. That means more numbers going forward, so...
Creating your formation
I now use a 4-1-3-2 that actually plays more like a 4-1-5.
Yep, you read that right.
I have four defenders, a holding midfielder then three very advanced midfielders who are much more like forwards, playing directly behind a front two. The three players in the hole are really the key, as they’re the ones that cause all kinds of havoc.
In FIFA 12, and in real football actually, the space between the midfield and attack is a very dangerous area to allow the opposition into when they have the ball. Defenders quickly feel overrun so midfielders are called back to help. This leaves a gigantic space between the defending team’s midfield and attack, which means they have little chance of retaining possession for very long if they do manage to win the ball back.
But as the attacking team using the ball in this area, more numbers means more options so having as many players as possible in the hole was my main goal when building my new formation. I started out with the trusted 4-1-2-1-2 as my base, as this gave me the back four that I’m comfortable with along with the insurance policy of a holding midfielder.
I moved my attacking midfielder as close to the strikers as possible – you can’t have any overlapping circles, so start level with the strikers then nudge back gradually until the game allows placement – then I shoved my wingers infield and up alongside him.
I didn’t have to change the position of the front two at all but it’s worth pointing out here that if you pick a base formation that has more than two strikers, so a 4-3-3 for example, then you might find the two wide strikers play a bit wider than you were expecting.
By picking a formation with two strikers and leaving their positions alone, I knew they’d be fine so it was just a case of getting the three behind them in the right positions.
It’s not just about moving players around though, you also need to tell them what to do...
When I was happy with the base positions of each of my players, the next area to focus on was their work rate.
With a formation that essentially had five players in defensive positions and five in attack, I needed to make sure they’d more or less keep their positions when being controlled by my AI team-mate.
So in the Work Rate section I gave my back four and my holding midfielder a Low attacking setting to limit their forward runs, and a high defensive setting to keep them as cautious as possible.
I almost needed the opposite for my five attacking players, the only exceptions being my left and right attacking midfielders who I set to medium for both attacking and defensive Work Rate. It just gave me an immediate line of defence in that crucial hole position – where my opponent’s holding midfielder would be – without limiting my options going forward.
That just left the Player Positioning settings to look at.
Not many players pay attention to this but I found it to be really useful as it allowed me to really direct my players to where I felt they needed to be, with and without the ball.
For starters I gave my full-backs defensive arrows that pointed diagonally in behind the centre-backs, and attacking arrows that pointed diagonally in front of them.
The defensive arrows forced my full-backs to play closer to my CB’s and this increased the amount of cover I got back there – useful when facing quick strikers. The attacking arrows moved the full-backs slightly infield so they could give my solitary holding midfield an out ball if he needed one. Remember, there’s a big gap between my holding player and my five attackers, so if a forward pass isn’t on I had to know I could keep possession by playing sideways if I was forced to.
I gave all three of my attacking midfielders/forwards arrows pointing straight back so they would at least drop a little when I was defending. When attacking, my central player headed straight for the strikers and my right and left sided attacking midfielders moved for the gap he’d created. This worked really well as my opposition had three very central strikers to track as well as two advanced midfielders buzzing around in the spaces.
And that’s pretty much it. Just one more thing left to cover...
Don’t make the mistake of thinking your tactic looks great on paper then go diving straight into a competitive online match – it’s vital you test it first.
Go for a game with the AI set to a World Class or Legendary difficulty level. When you haven’t got the ball, look out for any vulnerable points in your defence. Are you being overrun consistently in a certain area? Are you leaving big holes in areas you need to protect?
When you’ve got the ball pay attention to how you feel when you’re looking for a team-mate to pass to or an area to dribble into. Are your team-mates giving you enough options? Are they bunching in one area or not entering another area at all?
If you spot something, go straight back into the tactic and tweak it, then try it out again. You’ll soon get to a point where everything feels just right, and that’s when you’re ready to take it online.
Go for it
There’s no rush with picking your online team and tinkering with it before kick-off now, so take the time to select your new formation and make sure you’ve got exactly the right players for the roles you want them to play.
Keep in mind that you might have some more tweaking to do; the AI doesn’t play like a human will, so you must still look out for any areas of your new formation that need attention after the game you’re playing is done.
Eventually your tactic will be spot on and you’ll be heading into games with an extra feeling of confidence as well as the satisfaction that your wins aren’t just down to your skills, but also your tactical genius!